Initial Testing of Papers to Identify a Paper Negative Candidate

December 07, 2015  •  2 Comments

I am starting the process of trying to identify potential papers that could work for paper negatives.  I will be making my own silver gelatin emulsion and I need a substrate for my emulsion. My ultimate goal is to get to a place where I can make my own negative emulsion from raw materials and use it on a substrate such as paper or glass and be able to consistently produce with a good degree of quality.  

I would prefer to find a paper that I could use over glass plates simply because of the handling and storage factors.  Both of which I want to avoid if I can, but I will use glass and overcome my biases if I have to.  I can't be using commercial films and papers in my off the grid darkroom! 

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After I successfully identify a paper that I can use long term, I will begin the development process of the negative and contact print it.  I will most likely make my own D23 developer and start with that first.  After this part of the process is solid, I will be making my own silver gelatin printing emulsion and hand coating my paper to make contact prints.  I will most likely make two different emulsions, collodio-chloride and silver chloride.  

I took the first steps today in this journey and I selected a handful of potential papers that may work for me.  Only first-hand testing will reveal the truth, so it all begins here.  I did not want to waste my hand-made emulsion, so I used some commercial liquid emulsion to see how each paper would react.  I simply poured a little bit on each paper and on the small test strip in the lower left corner, I quickly coated it with a glass rod.  My only goal is to just see how the paper responds to the emulsion and I was not concerned about creating a high-quality coating today.  

I selected papers that were as smooth as I could find because I want high-quality detailed negatives.  I included Arches Platine because I keep a lot of it on hand for printing, so I thought I would include it.  

I am going to let these sit overnight and I will evaluate the papers tomorrow morning.  I will be looking for how the paper reacted to the emulsion in this first step.  I tested a wide variety of papers ranging from Archest Platine, Cranes Cover to the new Adox uncoated baryta paper and some mixed media papers from Strathmore.  

For the next step, I will select two papers to coat with more precision and attempt to use in the camera.  I will be writing additional articles as I perform the testing. 

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-Tim Layton

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Tim Layton
Darkroom & Large Format Photography - Alternative Printmaking
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Tim Layton Fine Art
Hi Mark, thanks for the comment. Stay tuned!
mark killmer(non-registered)
Great project, Tim. I am hoping to do this sort of thing myself. At this point, I'm albumen printing, but I hope to be able to up the ISO of the sensitiser until I can finally shoot "in camera" paper negatives.
I will be watching your results with interest!
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